The Ecphorizer

Mindprints and Wealth
Polly Pitkin Ryan

Issue #11 (July 1982)



Some people create wealth, others distribute it. The distributors are far removed from the process of creation. As far as they know, there is a fixed amount of wealth in the world, and whatever one person gains, another loses. Their game is to accumulate as much as they can, and prevent others from taking it away from them.

[quoteright'/>The creators are mostly invisible to the general public. They are buried in the back offices, laboratories, field operations, mines, lofts, foundries and refineries of industrial companies. They also inhabit the garages, back yards and attics of private homes. Typical workshops where wealth is created are grubby places - uncomfortable, noisy, often dangerous. They are not glamorous. But that is where the human mind transforms raw materials - which have no value - into the shapes which make them valuable.

The raw materials contained in a $20 pocket calculator could be held in a handful of sand. But the shapes imparted to the minerals in the sand confer remarkable properties on the finished assembly. The difference between a handful of sand and a pocket calculator is something Thoreau called the mindprint of Man. The mindprint of Man is the source of all wealth; the more intelligent the mind, the greater the wealth it can produce. It follows that intelligence itself is a valuable resource. It is the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Development and training are essential, of course. The present social attitude is that smart kids don't need any development or training. They can figure things out for themselves; the community doesn't need to take care of them. This attitude completely ignores the potential value of these smart kids to the community - a value which presently is going to waste. The world is full of brilliant bums. This attitude also ignores the potential destructiveness of smart kids who are not discovered, not developed and not trained. Our taxes are supporting a few of them in San Quentin and other expensive institutions, but those are only the ones who got caught. The others are still out there, ripping off the rest of us in gifted, creative, talented and highly intelligent ways.

The cultivation of gifted, creative, talented, highly intelligent minds - regardless of age - must emphasize professional behaviors as well as professional skills. Nelson and Zinsmeister, writing in the October 1981 issue of Mechanical Engineering, identified professional skills as planning, self-teaching, writing, speaking, innovation and human relations. Professional behaviors, different from skills, include being productive, thorough, reliable, ethical and socially concerned.

Millions of federal dollars are available in grants from government agencies like the Department of Energy, National Bureau of Standards and the National Science Foundation, for research and development of new products and processes - but 70 percent of that money goes to 20 large companies. Recently two bills have been introduced in Congress, S-881 and HR-4326, proposing to increase the R & D funds available for small business. Over 200 co-sponsors have perceived that small firms with fewer than 500 employees are not only the biggest product innovators, but also provide 80 percent or more of all new jobs in this country. Why not extend this good thinking back to the source? Over the long term, effort and funds spent on the discovery, development and training of highly intelligent human minds could produce more national wealth than a similar effort anywhere else.

Of course I am not proposing a Big Brother system, where gifted minds are identified by the government at an early age, and their lifetime careers controlled as property of the State. There is room for a more adventurous option: Find, develop and train those minds, and then turn them loose to find their own ways to contribute.

If human minds were perceived and valued by our society as national resources, who knows what beneficial mindprints might appear in the marketplace? The overall wealth and well-being of the country would be served in ways we don't even imagine, today. 


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Polly Pitkin Ryan




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